Archive | Life as a Writer

Balancing a Writing Life

Disneyland
I had a great week last week. I got a ton of writing done, I checked off about a dozen items from my long-standing to-do list, and on Friday, we took the kids to Disneyland.

This is the first year we’ve gone in for the annual pass. We bought the cheapest version, which means we can’t go on weekends, or holidays, or pretty much any time in July, but we only have to go three times a year to make the expense worth it. We went once for Daniel’s birthday, once for my sister-in-law’s birthday, and as it turned out, my girl’s school had a teacher work day Friday, and and I don’t start the new job until tomorrow, so it was the perfect opportunity. We have officially made the annual pass worth it. And the kids are the perfect age. The boy is still a little hesitant on some of the bigger rides, but we had a blast.

And now it’s Monday, my last day before starting the new job. I’m a little nervous, and excited. I’m also a little sad to be stepping away from all the writing I’ve been doing, but I’ll still be writing, it’ll just be science writing instead of fiction. And I’ll still have my mornings. I made more progress than I expected to on the novel last week, and I think with another week or two of mornings working on it, I should have a draft before long.

Then there’s the new story. I’m very much wanting to get back to it, but I’m too close on the first novel to drop it. I’m going to at least wrap up this draft, then jump back into Novel #2. Such is the life of a writer, always balancing the demands of story, with the need to make a living. It can be a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Life As a Full-Time Fiction Writer

Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. I’m not a full-time fiction writer. Yet. But I still have one more week until I start my new position as a full-time technical writer, and for these two short weeks between jobs, I am happily pretending that I am a professional novelist.

I get up at 5am and do my usual hour and half of writing to start the day, then take the kids to school, come home, get some exercise, take care of some emails, eat something, then write for 3 hours or so before running some errands and picking the kids up from school. There are some variations, depending on the errands that need running, but all in, it’s an awesome life. And it’s all mine for one more week.

Don’t get me wrong, I am actually super excited to start the new job. It’s a perfect match for my skills. I even get my own office, which I’ve never had. I like the people, and they’re doing really interesting work with water management in California, but still…

Still, the dream remains to be a full-time fiction writer.

The novel is coming along well. I made some good progress last week. I don’t think I will be able to finish it this week, but it’s not that far off. I am going to give it all my attention until I get to the point that I can hand it over to Daniel for a read. Then I’ll be back to working on Novel #2. I’m not sure how to refer to Novel #2 here. I have a working title, but it’s not good. I’ll just stick with Novel #2 for now.

So that’s what I’m doing this week. Just loving the life of a writer, for a little bit longer.

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Two Weeks

glendale stationFriday was my last day of work. As I have been working remotely all this time, I had to make my way down to Orange County to return all my company-owned gear: laptop, cell phone, back-up drive, various cords, company credit card, etc. And since it was Friday, and traffic is horrendous heading north into LA on Friday afternoons, I took the train. It was kind of awesome.

Daniel dropped me at the Glendale station, which is a surprisingly lovely little piece of antiquity in the heart of Los Angeles, and instead of cursing my way through four hours of traffic to make the 100 mile trip to Orange and back, I sat back, relaxed, and started re-reading the latest draft of my novel (before I launch into rewrites during my two weeks off).

And that leads me to this week, the first of two weeks where I am unemployed, but don’t have to be looking for work. It’s a first for me. I love it. And, of course, I have totally overbooked myself. I have a whole list of things I hope to get done with this time, from finally finishing a family photo album, to taking the Pilot in for an oil change, but the most important item on the list is to work on the novel.

I’m about half way through reading my most recent draft. The beginning is good. I’m happy with it, but around page 70 it slows. That, I know, is largely due to the fact that I have rewritten and reorganized the middle of the book so many times that the whole middle section is almost like an outline, but at least now everything is in the right place. I hope.

I have struggled so long with this novel. The only real up-side to those struggles is that I have learned an enormous amount about how to actually write a novel. Never again will I just dive in. I have wasted literally hundreds of pages writing down the wrong path. Thus the fifty page outline for the new project. I never thought much of outlines, but I was wrong.

So I hope to finish reading the draft tomorrow. I might have been able to do it today, but I’m taking the afternoon to go to the spa. In addition to celebrating a new chapter in my life, I am rewarding myself for hitting the writing goal I set 4 weeks ago – six mornings a week, 500 words a morning, for four weeks.

Once I finish reading it, I’ll jump into edits. I don’t know how far I can take it in two weeks, but time will tell.

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Starting a New Story

writing spaceAt the end of last year, I was feeling frustrated by my novel, again. I promised myself that if I could push through to the end of the year, then starting January 1, I would start drafting this new idea I’ve been outlining.

I was excited to make the shift, I really was. But I slept in on the first, then it was the weekend, so I didn’t really get started until a week or so into the new year. And once I did actually get started, I struggled. If you follow the blog, you know I have a goal of 500 words a morning, six mornings a week. I get up at 5am and sometimes I’m done super quick. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

The first half of January was like pulling teeth.

My theory is that it’s just been a really long time since I started something new. I just couldn’t hit a stride with it. Then I started oversleeping, missing precious writing time. At one point, I even seriously considered giving up. I told my husband that I was just too tired. Getting up early every day is hard.

He gave me a little pep talk and reminded me that I love writing. That hour and half of fiction writing every morning is what keep me grounded in the fact that I’m not just some hack working in marketing. I am a writer. And so I must write.

Of course, that doesn’t make getting up so early any easier. So I’m bribing myself. Starting this morning, if I can hit my goal of six mornings a week for four straight weeks, I will reward myself with an afternoon at a spa and a massage. Over sleeping is allowed (because honestly it happens some times) as long as I hit my 500 word goal every morning.

I love a good massage. And a good challenge. Hopefully this will help me rebuild the habit and make it easier for me to keep my regular writing time intact. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Why I Love Instagram

notebookAs I mentioned in my last post, my one goal for 2015 is to start actively taking notes about the world around me. As writers, the one thing we must be is observant, and I think the practice of actively looking and (most importantly) taking notes is critical.

So I found myself a lovely little notebook that fits easily in my purse, and I’ve taken a note on SOMETHING almost everyday. Like everything else in life, I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets – the more I begin to notice things that I need to jot down. It reminds me of the reason I love Instagram.

I’m a social media dabbler. I have a Facebook page, and I sometimes tweet, but my favorite platform by far is Instagram. My love for it developed pretty quickly when I found myself looking for beauty, everywhere I went. I still take the obligatory head-on shots of the kiddos posing arm in arm, but I dig a little deeper when I start to think about how something might look with an interesting filter. I’ll try a different angle, wait patiently for an unusual shot, or set up something in the background to give it depth. And I’m a novice compared to a lot of Instagramers. Truth be told, the results are fun, but it’s the frame of mind that I love the most.

It’s like a much simpler form of my writer’s notebook, which works the same way, insofar as it pushes me to consider things, to look more closely, to try to find the story, but with Instagram, once I’m done, I tap a button and share the moment with my friends. Honestly, I wish all of my friends were on Instagram. It’s the best.

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Tough Mudder Tomorrow!

I gave myself a few mornings off this week. I’ve been training really hard for this race I’m doing tomorrow, and decided that I needed the extra rest to be at the top of my game.

In case you haven’t heard me yammer on about this race yet, let me tell you a little about it. It’s a 10-mile obstacle course with the tag line “quite possibly the toughest event on the planet.” Now, I have no frame of reference for the validity of that claim, but I do know there will be 12 different obstacles, some of which involve electricity, fire, dumpsters filled with ice water and barbed wire. I’ve been training for a long time.

My partner for the race (who also happens to be in my writing group – see how I always bring it back to the writing?) is my friend Alex. She and I just checked into our hotel. It’s a Ramada, so you know it’s pretty nice. It’s 11pm, and way past my bed time, but I’m too excited (nervous?) to sleep yet.

Our start time is 11am. 12 hours to go – yikes. We’re hoping to finish by 4, and I honestly don’t know if that’s optimistic or if we’ll finish way before that.

Daniel and my mom are meeting us back at the hotel with the kids. We decided it wasn’t worth the entrance fee to have to chase them through a crowd of adrenaline junkies. As much as I would have loved to have them at the finish line, I’ll settle for beer and a burger in beautiful downtown Temecula.

So wish me luck.
I’ll post some pictures as soon as I’m able.

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Pages Are Flying

I’ve hit a groove with my early morning writing. My alarm goes off at 5am, it takes me about 10 minutes to get upstairs and make coffee (I move really slowly that early in the morning), and then I write one full page in my journal, which takes about 15 minutes, and then I write for an hour. At 6:30 I head down to get the kids up and in the shower – time to start the day.

Since writing about my blog’s fourth birthday, and reflecting on how I used to write so much more (in basic volume), I’ve tried treating my fiction like I treat the writing I do at my job. I get up when I say I will and just know I have to hit 500 words in an hour. Instead of laboring over the parts I know need polishing, I skim ahead to the section where I actually need new prose and just start writing.

It’s been kind of amazing. 500 words a day, and I’ve been doing it 6 days a week for three weeks now – yes, I’m even getting my lazy butt out of bed on Saturdays. That’s 3,ooo words a week for the math-challenged. At this rate I can absolutely finish this draft before the end of the year. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done, and that fact alone is enough to keep me motivated to get out of bed before the sun comes up.

The pages are flying and it is so very satisfying.

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Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 

Laguna

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Best Neighbors Ever

My neighbors moved out last weekend. They were the best neighbors ever and I miss them terribly already. It’s hard to say how this development will affect the dynamics of our block. You see – we have (had?) the coolest block in LA.

Celeste was six months old when we moved in and there were no other kids, but in the six years since then seven other kids have been born onto our tiny cul-de-sac. We call Celeste the Sheriff, as she makes sure the other kids stay in line. We meet up at the end of the street each night and the parents hang out while the kids ride scooters and bikes, or draw with chalk. It’s an awesome way to end the day. But now the number of kids has been reduced by two.

And since I always brings things back to the writing with this blog, it’s worth noting that the mom of that household is also my soon-to-be publisher. Elisa published a book about New Mexico a couple years ago. It’s not your usual travel guide, but instead outlines the cultural things you’ll see when you nmbookbuyvisit – things that you won’t find in a traditional where-to-eat-sleep-and-stuff-your-face guide. Like bolo ties and coyote fences. Well, as soon as she mentioned to me that she wanted to do California next, but in two books – north and south, I pretty much pestered her until she agreed to let me write Northern California, which she did, on the condition that Southern California would come out first.

Originally slated to come out late 2012, the Southern California edition was slightly delayed by the birth of their second child and the aforementioned moving, but I believe it’s at the printers and should be coming to a store near you soon.

And Northern California is close on its heels. We still have some photography that needs to be done, but the manuscript is complete. Frankly, I don’t care when it comes out. It was so much fun to write, and it’s not like Northern California is going anywhere. I sincerely hope there is a book tour for that one. It will be a great excuse to go spend some time with old friends.

In the meantime I will gaze wistfully from our kitchen window at the empty parking spot across the street. They will be missed.

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Beacon

A journalist friend of mine emailed me earlier this week to tell me about the launch of Beacon, a new publication platform she’s a part of. I opened and read her email immediately because 1) she’s a great writer and 2) she manages to get herself into some seriously sticky situations while investigating her stories so her material is usually pretty juicy.

Most writers complain about not getting paid enough, but Jean Guerrero (that’s her name) and her fellow investigative journalists win this one hands down. They are getting paid next to nothing for pieces that take weeks of perilous work to research.

Beacon, it turns out, is attempting to solve the problem with a subscription-based news service. Here’s what Jean had to say about it:

Beacon is this incredible new journalism platform by Dan Fletcher, the creator of Time Magazine’s NewsFeed and a former managing editor at Facebook, meant to change the fact that some of the best reporters today risk their lives in war zones just to make $70 for a single article — all thanks to the current failing business model of journalism.  I’m one of 30 journalists worldwide that you can directly subscribe to on Beacon.  By subscribing to me for $5 a month (with a free trial and easy cancellation any time), you instantly get access to ALL of the OTHER great writers on Beacon, as well.  I’ll be covering human rights issues in Latin America — the kind of really human-focused, heartbreaking stuff that I couldn’t cover for a news corp that relied on advertisers’ dollars.

Support quality investigative reporting for $5 a month?

Yes, thank you.

 

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